Today I sit down with one of our newest football writers, Robert!
How are you?
Well, not the greatest. During the first week of our sheltering in place, our house was hit with an earthquake that caused us to have to move out while repairs were being done. We’re going on week 6 of that. We’ve received amazing support from friends and family, but it feels like life has been turned upside down in just about every way.
What’s your quick bio?
I’m married to Michelle, and we have two little kids, a three year old daughter and a five month old son. I graduated from GT in 2009 in ChemE, but my vocational life went in a different direction. We live in Salt Lake City, UT, and I’m the pastor of a Presbyterian Church here.
What did you do while you were at Tech?
The two things that took up most of my non-academic time were belonging to a fraternity and being heavily involved in a campus ministry. I also served on the student government Athletics and Recreational Services committee for two years, serving as the chairman in the second year.
How did you get to FTRS?
I’ve read FTRS for several years, and along the way I’ve started trying to track some of my own analytics for GT football games. When Ben posted in January about an opening for a football writer with a preference for someone familiar with analytics, I thought it would be a great opportunity to dive more deeply into what I’ve been trying to do and try to share it with a wider GT audience.
What do you normally write about?
As with all things, the pandemic has certainly changed what I thought spring football writing would look like. I wrote a couple of articles analyzing recruiting by position for the 2020 class, and the last few weeks I’ve been writing power rankings for characters from some of my favorite shows and book reviews.
Favorite Tech sports moment?
Narrowing this to one is brutally hard, but I will say walking out of Sanford Stadium with my dad in 1998 after we had won 21-19. Joe Hamilton had engineered a late drive to set up a game-winning Brad Chambers field goal. We broke a seven year losing streak and prevented them from tying the longest winning streak in the series. More than that, we knew we had a special one in Lil’ Joe, and we were set up for several more good years. As we walked down the ramp from the 300 section, there were a few thousand Tech fans, and the “It’s Great to be a Yellow Jacket” chant reverberated and had to be the coolest thing I had ever been part of as an 11 year old.
Man, so many people are doing non-cliche ones, I love it!
Can I do a second favorite anyway? GT-UGA 2008. It was my senior year at Tech. The first half was brutal; Stafford to Massaquoi was unstoppable. Then, the spread option erupted in a way I still have a hard time believing. From Dwyer’s opening touchdown run to start the half to Roddy’s tip-toe act down the sideline to ice things, we had once again broken a 7 year losing streak to the Dwags. On the way to Athens, we had listened to the UGA pregame show, and Eric Zeier couldn’t stop belittling the high school offense they were about to face. Listening to the postgame show was a master class in schadenfreude.
Favorite non-Tech sports moment?
Falcons-Packers in the 2003 NFL playoffs. A bunch of my high school buddies and I were watching the game in a friend’s basement. It was a great setup, with a pool table and a ping pong table plus a big screen. When the Falcons blocked a punt to go up 14-0 in the first, I was so excited I tried to use my pool cue as a pole vault, and it snapped in half. It was a beautiful moment of unexpected sports success combined with a great high school friendship memory.
Favorite piece you’ve written for FTRS?
Well, I’m only about two months in. Right now, it would be the piece I wrote on the 2020 linebackers in our recruiting roundup series. I loved the chance to apply some more in depth statistics from our 2019 season to analyze who we have coming back, and to use the film of the incoming guys to project where they might shore up weakness and add new strength.
Favorite off-the-beaten-path Atlanta restaurant (i.e. not one of the typical ones everyone talks about)?
During my time at Tech, it was Carver’s, the best meat and three place I’ve ever been to. A group of friends and I would go just about every Friday for lunch, but it closed down a few years after I graduated. I’m going to say Pint and Plate because I was going there before it was cool; I started going regularly for trivia on Wednesdays back in 2008.
Note from Chris: I’m only allowing this because Robert is new AND actually provided a picture of himself at Cypress:
What kind of media are you into (music, tv, movies, books, podcasts, etc.)?
Music: a rotating set of soundtracks including Frozen, Frozen 2, Moana, and Beauty and the Beast. Did I mention I have a three year old?
TV: Breaking Bad is the greatest show of all time. I’ve really been enjoying Better Call Saul; the fifth season of the Breaking Bad prequel just wrapped up and was the best one yet. As far as comedies, The Office and Seinfeld are the pantheon for me, as evidenced by my recent articles.
Movies: I’m not a big movie watcher. I tend to find movies I like and rewatch them. My favorites list includes some of the classics: Godfather, Godfather Part 2, Shawshank Redemption...
Books: I read a lot: good fiction, history, sociology, theology. I post a list of my reading list and my ten favorites from each year. If you want to nerd out with me a little, you can check 2019 here.
Podcasts: I’ve been a long-time listener to the Bill Simmons podcast; that’s what really got me into the world of podcasts. Some other favorites would be 538 politics for general political happenings, Pod Save the People for deep dives into systematic injustices in the US, Prophetic Politics for a non-partisan vision for what politics could be; Dunc’d On and the Lowe Post for NBA happenings. For college football, PAPN has been my favorite. The recent changes and current uncertainty there is killing me. I want Bill C to get his own show.
What do you do when you aren’t watching sports?
My wife and I love to venture out and try new restaurants. We also really love to travel, but having two little ones makes that a bit more difficult now. Since living in Utah, we’ve really enjoyed hiking and have tried to take semi-regular trips to some of the breath-taking state and national parks we have here in Utah. On a sad note, we were supposed to be at Zion National Park today for a trip but had to cancel because of the ongoing pandemic.
What’s your go-to icebreaker “fun fact”?
If anyone was around Tech in 2006, you may remember the CRC shutting down for a day. That was because of me. It was a Tuesday night, and I had been at a meeting of the campus ministry I was a part of. Afterwards, a group of us decided to head to the CRC to play basketball. We got up to the courts, picked teams, and started to play. On just the second possession up the court, I ran towards the basket, a teammate threw a pass to me, I dropped it, and it went out of bounds. Just a small mistake. I like to think I don’t have a problem with anger, but sometimes I prove to myself that is a lie. So instead of grabbing the ball and handing it to the other team, or just letting it roll against the wall, I kicked it. As hard as I could. I’m terrible at soccer, but this kick felt like I was Pele or Messi. The flight of the ball was beautiful, fast and straight…straight into a sprinkler head mounted underneath the track. Immediately, I was wet. So was the ground around me. Quickly, so was the whole gym. Apparently, breaking one sprinkler head sets off the whole system. In a split second, there was chaos. The fire alarms were going off. People were running and yelling. The whole sprinkler system was on. I was standing there, with dark smelly liquid all over me. Quickly, a staff member of the rec center jogged towards me and asked if that was me. I said, “Nope,” and ran for the stairs. I headed downstairs to the weight room to find the friend who had driven me over. I found him and yelled “Phil, that was me, we’ve got to go.” So we headed for the exits with everyone else, just as three fire trucks were pulling up out front.
I got back to the house where I lived and checked my phone. I had a voicemail from the director of the campus ministry…wow does word travel fast. His message - “hey Robert, I heard about what happened, I think you should turn yourself in. Ok bye.” Wow, that’s what I wanted to hear. I ended up doing it, and the sergeant at the police department said seven of the most beautiful words I had ever heard: “Son, that is what insurance is for.”
The Technique wasn’t allowed to use my name, but the front page of the newspaper for three straight weeks was about my kick and the damage it caused, including an editorial that compared my kick to an act of terrorism. And then we found out more about how long certain parts of the rec center would be closed while all of the water damage was dealt with- the whole building for 24 hours, the only time in its history up to that point it had been closed for a whole day; the basketball courts for a few weeks, a dance studio for a month, the swimming pool used by the swim and dive teams for several months. A friend in the student government found out about the projects going on and let me know that the total cost of my kick was $1.6 million dollars.
Note from Chris: This is hands-down the best answer anyone has given so far, I might just stop asking.
Any closing words?
I think my fun fact is the best closing word I could offer.